Sunday, September 13, 2009

Road Trip Art

A selection of room keys, PHX - STL:
Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix (most lush experience)
Sheraton, Albuquerque (palm trees???)
Hyatt Express, Tulsa (rather dull suburban location)
Moonrise Hotel, St. Louis (best bed)

Museums make art experiences happen deliberately. Road trips make art experiences happen accidentally.

Some of my favorite images from my four day tour with Mary Louise:

Bathroom painting, Munds Park, AZ (image of Munds Park):

Mega-church, OK:

Sculpture Park, Coffeeyville, KS:

Pump jacks, a selection of sizes:

Finally, remnants of unpacking:

The efficiency of the American I-highway system made our trip fast, but our detours made it interesting. We drove through Window Rock, AZ, to see the administrative capital of the Navajo Nation, and Tucumcari, NM, a formerly thriving town on Route 66 but now a struggling enclave of dilapidated 1950s motels, to measure the impact of the highway system on small town America.

We also stopped in Coffeeyville, KS, where my grandfather Ogden grew up. The docent at the historical Brown Mansion confused our looking for the downtown (mostly empty storefronts) with their commercial strip (Arby's, gas stations), a testament to a town that hasn't yet revitalized its old real estate stock with boutiques and bars (too far from KC and Tulsa?)

The most dramatic image was outside Amarillo, TX (see previous post), which consolidated Amarillo's reputation for me.

Small town America looks like Stephen Shore to me, although Robert Frank loomed large in my mind while driving as well. Like any art experience, I learned a lot about the world in this trip, the trials and tribulations of people living outside big cities--and in our go-go, internet connected world, what a great and rare privilege it is to spend four days with a friend. We found artistic moments everywhere, thanks to the refined eyes of photographers who allow us to frame images laden with social and political content.

On a side note: I'm for the government's stimulus package, but improving roads seems less urgent than helping these smaller communities reinvest in themselves.

© all images author and Mary Louise Schumacher

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